Model history: When Enzo Ferrari started his own company in 1947, he hired Gioacchino Colombo as chief engineer. The two had previously worked together when Ferrari was team manager at Alfa Romeo. Colombo's task was to design a new engine that would outperform the 8-cylinder Grand Prix engine he had designed for Alfa Romeo before the War. The rules allowed for a supercharged engine with a maximum displacement of 1.5 litres or a Naturally Aspirated unit displacing up to 4.5 litres. Colombo's vast experience with supercharging made his choice for the former understandable.
Colombo's 1.5 litre V12 engine powered the very first Ferrari and with various displacements, it powered every Ferrari up to 1950. This was the first year of Formula One and the championship winner featured a Colombo designed engine. Unfortunately for him, it was the Alfa Romeo that won every single race of the championship; Colombo was quickly fired after this debacle. His replacement, Aurelio Lampredi, set out to design a completely new engine for 1951. Not making the same mistake as Colombo, Lampredi chose to design a Naturally Aspirated 4.5 litre V12 engine.
To save weight, both the cylinder block and heads were cast from light alloy. Each bank of cylinders featured a single overhead camshaft, operating 2 valves per cylinder. The engine was thoroughly tested in 1950 and ready to take on the Alfa Romeos in 1951. Fitted in the Ferrari 375 F1, the V12 produced around 350 bhp. Although this was no match for the Alfa Romeo's power, the 375's fuel efficiency still made it a serious contender, only losing the championship in the final race of the season.
Ferrari's performance and Alfa Romeo's policy changes were the main reasons for the Milanese firm's withdrawal from Grand Prix racing. With Ferrari being the only team with a competitive F1 racer, the sport's governing body decided to run the 1952 and 1953 championship under Formula Two regulations. This left the Lampredi engine obsolete for Grand Prix racing, but its career was far from over. The large V12 found its way into a limited series of Ferrari sports racers, the 375 MMs constructed in 1953 and 1954.
The first cars constructed were equipped with engine Tipo 102 of the exact configuration as the Grand Prix engine. For reliability reasons, most cars featured engine Tipo 108 with a slightly different bore/stroke and displacement. Some of the large amount of torque available was sacrificed by the bigger bore, but the higher revving engine yielded a similar amount of horsepower. Pinin Farina supplied most of the bodies for the 26 375 MMs. Most common were the featured Spyder and Berlinetta bodies. The other five 375 MMs constructed were fitted with custom coachwork for some of Ferrari's wealthiest customers.
The finest hour of the Lampredi V12 would come at the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans race, where a 375 Plus with a 4.9 litre version of the engine took the overall victory. In the next years the Lampredi engine was only used sparsely, predominantly to power the most exclusive of Ferrari road cars. Ironically the long block V12's career was ultimately overshadowed by the successes of the Colombo engine, Lampredi had originally been tasked to replace.
This is the final of eight 375 Plus chassis produced and the only one built for use on the street. It was commissioned by King Leopold of Belgium and completed by Pinin Farina early in 1955. The lines of the unique machine were classically elegant but also incorporated some cues that would appear on later 'production' Ferraris like the covered headlights. The Belgian King is believed to have retained the car until the late 1960s, when it was acquired by the current, American owner.
In the early 1980s the second custodian had the one-off Ferrari restored. In the following years, he sparingly showed the car at the major events. Not seen since in public since the mid-1990s, it was once again completely restored in recent years. Chassis 0488AM made its post-restoration debut at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it was lined up alongside another unique Ferrari ordered by the Belgian royal family; Princess Liliane de Réthy's Vignale bodied Europa 250 GT. King Leopold's 375 Plus was very well received and won the 'best in class' award and the Enzo Ferrari Trophy.